Drunk driving law is a broad field that clearly has so much in common with criminal cases, but is still distinctly different in some ways. Since driving under the influence (DWI) is not technically listed as a “crime” under the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, there are different rules regarding how DWI cases are handled and tried in New Jersey.
Regardless of whether it is called a crime or not, DWI always has the potential of jail time, expensive fines, and license suspensions. If you or a loved one was charged with DWI in Atlantic City, talk to an attorney today. The Atlantic City DWI defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych fight to protect the rights of drivers in South Jersey. Call our lawyers today to schedule a free consultation on your New Jersey DWI case.
New Jersey DWI Trials
One of the most common things that people expect when facing a criminal trial is the trial by jury. According to the US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, everyone in the US has the “right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” Similarly, the New Jersey State Constitution guarantees an “impartial jury” under Art. I, § 10, and guarantees that “[t]he right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate” in Art. 1, § 9.
Despite this, DWI is not guaranteed a right to a jury trial in New Jersey. Instead, DWI trials are a “bench trial,” heard by a judge. While a judge is usually involved in a criminal trial, they typically decide only the legal issues; the facts (and the question of guilty vs. not guilty) are left to the jury. In DWI cases, the judge decides the facts as well. Because DWI is not technically a “crime,” the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled there is no right to a jury trial. DWI is listed in the Motor Vehicle Code at N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50, not the Code of Criminal Justice.
Despite the fact that New Jersey does not consider a DWI a crime, it still has all the features of a criminal case. This means that you can still face jail time, fines, and other punishments for DWI. These punishments even stack for multiple DWI violations, like crimes. This does help, however, with regard to certain protected rights.
First, you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. This means that you do not need to answer police questions after you’ve been arrested. You can request to have an attorney present or refuse questions altogether.
You also have the right, as you do in all situations, to be free from “unreasonable search and seizure.” With regard to DWI cases, the US Supreme Court specifically held in Missouri v. McNeely (2013) that police need a warrant before they can draw blood for a DWI. The New Jersey Supreme Court adopted this rule, and now requires warrants for blood tests to prove your alcohol consumption. They even went as far to overturn older cases where no warrant was used.
New Jersey DWI Arrests
Even though DWI is not a crime, you can still face arrest for driving drunk. Police can legally pull you over, talk to you, and even perform field sobriety tests without a warrant in New Jersey. If you are pulled over for drunk driving, always remain calm and polite when dealing with police. If you would prefer not to answer questions, you may refuse to answer them. However, your refusal to answer questions before arrest could be used against you at trial. Refusing questions after arrest is protected by your right to remain silent.
In New Jersey, it is a separate offense to refuse a breathalyzer test. Since breathalyzers merely measure your breath for alcohol, they are less intrusive than a blood test. Current case law does not require a warrant for a breath test. This means you could face an immediate license suspension for refusing a breath test.
If you are arrested for drunk driving, you may need to post bail before you will be released. This is not true in every case. If you are not at risk of failing to appear at your court date, the court may release you without bail requirements, or at least without a down payment.
Finally, when the time for trial approaches, you need an attorney in your corner. Having a criminal defense attorney on your case can help combat the government’s evidence, fight their case, and keep you out of jail.
Atlantic City DWI Defense Attorneys
The Atlantic City DWI Defense Lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to take your case. We will fight for your rights and work to keep you out of jail. For a free consultation on your DWI charges in Atlantic City or anywhere in South Jersey, call today at (609) 616-4956.